Alcohol restrictions may help, but Gold Coast really needs more police

Ever since I was punched in the back of the head by a drunken idiot at Canberra’s Uni Pub the weekend prior to Easter in 2008, I’ve believed that alcohol-related violence is a major issue in Australia and demands a serious crackdown. Hence there may be merit in the proposed after-midnight alcohol restrictions on Surfers Paradise, as reported in today’s Gold Coast Bulletin:

A MAJOR Surfers Paradise business group is lobbying the State Government to mandate mid-strength alcohol after midnight to try to restore the tourist strip’s tarnished image.

The Surfers Paradise Alliance, which represents more than 700 businesses, is also calling for compulsory ID scanners at all licensed venues, a complete ban on glass at major events and “high-risk” clubs and pubs and more police and liquor licensing inspectors.

The best thing we could do to reduce alcohol-related violence (and other crime) on the Gold Coast would be to massively boost police numbers. The Government may have significantly increased numbers earlier this year, and assaults are trending down, but the incidence of violence still remains high and more police officers are obviously needed.

While another boost to Gold Coast police numbers would come at a significant cost, boosting police numbers would yield net economic benefits to the community, if the results from a new RAND Corporation study for the US are applicable here (Save Money-Hire Police):

Although crime in the United States on average has shown a historic decline since the early 1990s, a recent RAND Corp. report shows that a 10% increase in the size of a police force decreases the rate of homicide by 9%, robbery by 6% and vehicle theft by 4% each year. (The effect on rates of sexual assault is less clear.)

And crime is expensive to communities, businesses and victims.

Each homicide costs a community an average of $8 million, according to reliable cost-of-crime studies. At that rate, Los Angeles’ homicides cost it more than $4 billion in 2006, or 2% of the city’s total economic output. That bottom line includes obvious costs of crime: adjudication, coroners, medical costs and incarceration. RAND also figured in a factor for the intangible costs of victims’ pain and suffering.

The high cost of crime to society suggests that adding police officers may give large cities a sizable return on their investments.

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